Nearly a week ago, hundreds of activists with the youth-led Sunrise Movement marched through the streets of Washington, D.C. with a message: take the climate crisis seriously! At one point barricading White House entrances, activists used their bodies and their voices to denounce President Joe Biden’s wimpy new infrastructure package. Originally proposed to be an over $2 trillion plan, the new package only allocates $579 billion towards climate mitigating efforts.
Correctly dismissed as a “performative bipartisan stunt,” this agreement excludes a number of climate proposals Biden originally put forward. Nor does it meet the recommendations of experts and scientists. It merely scratches the surface of what will be necessary to halt, or even slow, climate change. So it’s understandable that these young people were mad and willing to risk arrest for their voices to be heard. As one activist said, “we do not have any time to waste.”
This activist also rightly pronounced, “Politicians, they have been selling out our generation for decades to fossil fuel CEOs and billionaires.” In fact, only a couple days after this demonstration, an undercover reporter had a very telling interview with a senior lobbyist for Exxon, Keith McCoy.
In the undercover investigation, McCoy admitted that the company has been working to weaken key aspects of Biden’s climate change plan. They have been speaking with multiple senators and authors of the bipartisan package to “reel in” lawmakers, removing “negative stuff” such as rules limiting greenhouse gas emissions and taxes on oil companies.
Instead, Exxon has been pushing for a carbon tax, an initiative they believe will fail to pass. This way, they can continue to pollute, while flaunting their support of a carbon tax to give themselves a greener image.
These are the types of companies in the driver’s seat of legislative change. After all, as Representative Jamaal Bowman said in response to the report, “If you’re an oil corporation trying to make billions of dollars profiting off the climate crisis, you can get a standing weekly meeting with a U.S. Senator; if you’re a waitress or a teacher, that’s unimaginable.”
So our hope must not be in the legislators or the President. They’ve shown us who they’re accountable to. And it doesn’t matter how many scientists warn of impending ecological collapse, just as it did not matter that epidemiologists had been predicting the spread of COVID-19 without certain safety measures – they won’t do what is necessary to save us. If we want change, we’re going to have to make it ourselves.